Teaching your kids about money

Teaching your kids about money


As the country focuses on Youth Day this month, City Press took another look at how we educate our children around financial literacy.

We often hear that South Africa has a poor savings culture, but this is not necessarily the case, says John Manyike, financial education economist at Old Mutual. Manyike points out that with an estimated R44 billion flowing through the informal sector via stokvels and similar savings vehicles, the issue is not that SA has a poor savings culture but rather that South Africa has a poor long-term savings culture.

“South Africans save to consume in the short-term. However, when we talk about educating our youth in terms of financial literacy, we need to educate the adult population as well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and children need to see their parents exhibit key savings behaviour so that they emulate this in their own financial habits,” he says.

Start the conversation at home

Manyike says you can start small in terms of teaching your children the importance of saving. For example, you could explain how much money the family saves by eating in instead of going to a restaurant; or by cooking a meal from scratch rather than buying a ready-made meal that goes in the oven.

“Money is often a taboo topic, even among adults. As a parent, you don’t have to go into the little details but share with your children your thoughts around saving and planning for the future and then let them see you implement those plans. For example, one great way to make it practical and tangible is to have a family discussion to plan a big holiday that will take place in a year’s time. Discuss where you want to go, how long you want to be away for and what you want to do when you get there. Then talk about how much you will need to save and how the family can go about working towards this medium-term savings goal,” he says.

Manyike points out that right now, we are in the middle of winter. You could talk to your children about the importance of keeping the electricity bill down by adopting efficient behaviour habits such as:

  • Switching the lights off whenever you leave a room.
  • Keeping the heaters on for a limited period each day instead of leaving them on all day.
  • Using blankets rather than heaters.
  • Only filling the kettle with the amount of water you need to boil and not boiling a full kettle of water for one cup of tea.

“Children learn by observation, particularly so when it comes to their parents. So, you can’t have an attitude of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do. If you have more than one child, you could encourage them to save by getting them to create a picture board of something they have identified as a savings goal. It could be anything from a matric dance dress to a bicycle. The child who saves more each month could be rewarded by you matching their savings for the month,” he suggests.

The conversation continues at school

Manyike says that at a recent financial literacy conference he attended in Amsterdam, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) listed the following guidelines for integrating financial literacy into the school curriculum:

  • There must be a co-ordinated national financial strategy with one clear leader.
  • Sustainable funding is a must. Public/private partnerships are the way forward. For example, in South Africa currently, financial services companies each have their own programme/financial literacy drive, but if these projects were all co-ordinated under one clear leader with funding from the private sector, so much more could be achieved so much quicker.
  • Adequate training for teachers. Just as parents need to be financially educated, so too should teachers so that they are in a position to pass their knowledge on to our youth.
  • The provision of effective learning tools. Manyike says this point puts the ball back in the court of parents. “Children today are so tech-savvy and we need to harness that skill when it comes to using technology to drive financial literacy education,” he says.


  • First published in City Press on 12 June 2016. 

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